The joy of stepping off a plane, ship or train in sunnier climes, is something most of us crave. But what if that arrival marked the start of days or weeks spent searching high and low for someone you love?
Norman and Pat Cook from Cheshire have spent many holidays doing just that. Their son, Steven, went missing during a trip to Crete in 2005. A bar crawl with friends, ending when he headed off to his hotel and never came back.
The student’s parents have regularly retraced his steps over the years, blitzing the island with posters showing his face and promising a hefty reward for his return. “While we’ve had a lot of scenarios put to us”, Norman told me, “we’ve always ended up not having the answer we really need”.
They’ve long been told of a homeless foreigner, with no memory, wandering the island - yet they’ve never found him. Still, Pat believes such information holds the greatest promise of all: “It’s the nearest we’ve been”, she says.
Steven had much to look forward to in life, including a university course he adored, and his family can’t believe he’d willingly give it all up. His parents have had incoherent phone calls from Germany and Morocco, but police have been unable to trace the caller.
Norman says that focusing on the practicalities of the search, have helped the family to put their emotions on “the back burner”. Nothing stops them coming to the fore at night, though. “Hours”, says Norman, when they’re “not sure if they’ll ever, ever find him”.
If you think you have seen Steven Cook, or want to get a message home to searching relatives, call the Missing People Helpline on 116 000. The call is free and confidential.